Just to set the scene: I work in an office. I crunch numbers. I wear business-casual clothes even though the rest of my co-workers are dressing business-fancy. I have a boss who is overworked and genuinely cares about his clients.
I've worked here for over three months, and only in the last week has my boss been sending me to client's offices to do work. Maybe it's because he wanted to wait until I understood how things worked or maybe he wanted to see how his clients would react to his strange not-so-female not-so-male employee. So far, no one has ran away screaming.
The first time I went out in the field, the office manager of our client pointed to me and asked my boss: "How long has this young man been working for you?" My boss ignores her outright, and I literally respond with this stupid quip: "Close!" And what I mean by that is: You almost guessed my gender, but you didn't. You were sooooo close, try again.
The other day I went with my co-worker Matt to another client's office. I was going to prepare him for the inevitable confusion, but I wimped out and the receptionist asked who the gentleman with him was. Close! I shouted in my head. I interrupted Matt's speechlessness and said: "We work together."
Here's where things go in a different direction. Matt introduces me to John, our point of contact at this office. A tall man with a soft, awkward demeanor, he shakes my hand and shows us to our work space. Three hours later, John returns and hovers over me. I look up and he says: "Hey, I have to show you something." I turn to Matt, perplexed why he's not being invited to check this something out with me. Matt gives me a blank, unhelpful look. "It's important" John pushes. I'm confused and actually a little nervous. Unable to delay any longer I get up and follow him. He leads me to: The Women's Restroom. In explanation he says: "I forgot to show you this earlier. You might need it."
We laugh together. Him, over this hilarious prank he just pulled. Me, with relief but newfound confusion. I go back to my desk and look to Matt in hopes that he'll shake his head in disbelief over what just happened. Matt is disinterested and unamused.
My guess: John wanted me to know that he understood my gender. He knew that I was a woman and one way to show me that was either to refer to me as "she" (the less complicated and freaky option) and the other was to direct me to a place where only women can go. Maybe he wanted the benefit of having a longer interaction with me and thought we'd have some sort of meaningful conversation on our way to the restroom.
I really don't know what his intentions were - but if I give him the benefit of the doubt, I think he was just trying to connect.
Or maybe he just wanted to show that he knew my trick and wasn't fooled.